Neighborhood effects as meso-causes

A very interesting and current sociological study of "meso"-social causation can be found in the literature on neighborhood effects over the past 15 years or so. Robert Sampson and various colleagues have offered striking new analyses and arguments that establish the importance of geo-social neighborhoods on the occurrence of a variety of important social behaviors. …

Supervenience and social entities

What is the ontological status of social entities -- kinship systems, police departments, religious movements?  And what is the status of causal powers of social entities?  Do we need to "reduce" social entities to the compounds of individuals who make them up? And do we need to derive the causal properties of social entities from …

Do organizations have causal powers?

An organization is a meso-level social structure. It is a structured group of individuals, often hierarchically organized, pursuing a relatively clearly defined set of tasks.  In the abstract, it is a set of rules and procedures that regulate and motive the behavior of the individuals who function within the organization.  There are also a set …

Relative explanatory autonomy

In an earlier post I indicated a degree of disagreement with the premises of analytical sociology concerning the validity of methodological individualism (link). This disagreement comes down to three things. First, for reasons I've referred to several times here and elsewhere (link), I prefer to refer to methodological localism rather than methodological individualism. This theory …

Peter Demeulenaere on analytical sociology

Here is another take on the core features of analytical sociology, this time from Peter Demeulenaere in the introduction to his very interesting recent collection on the subject, Analytical Sociology and Social Mechanisms. The volume includes thirteen essays by leading experts grouped around "Actions and Mechanisms," "Mechanisms and Causality," and "Approaches to Mechanisms," and it is an …

Steinmetz on colonialism

George Steinmetz offers a comparative sociology of colonialism in The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa.  More specifically, he wants to explain differences in the implementation of "native policy" within German colonial regimes around the turn of the twentieth century.  He finds that there are significant differences across three …

Social explanation and causal mechanisms

To explain a social outcome or regularity, we need to provide an account of why and how it came about; and this means providing a causal analysis in terms of which the explanandum appears as a result. Having a causal theory of a realm requires having an ontology: what kinds of things exist in this …

Microfoundationalism

detail: Lynn Cazabon photo The philosophy of social science encompasses several important tasks, and key among them is to provide theories of social ontology and social explanation. What is the nature of social entities? What is needed in order to substantiate a claim of social causation? What constitutes an acceptable social explanation? The concept of …

Marx an analytical sociologist?

  In an earlier post I gave a brief sketch of the emerging field of analytical sociology, and summarized its foundations around three premises: microfoundations, rational social actors, and causal mechanisms. Marx is often thought to be a "structuralist" thinker, highlighting large social processes and entities such as the mode of production, the economic structure, and social …

Abbott on mechanisms

Peter Hedstrom and Richard Swedberg's Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory (1998) announced to the world the power of social mechanisms as a foundation for social explanations. It was based on a conference on this approach in Stockholm in 1996, and the volume includes contributions by outstanding authorities such as Thomas Schelling, Jon Elster, Aage …

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